WeChat meets Red Envelopes: Lunar New Year in China

When it comes to China there are so many controversies about it that one can hardly find a middle ground and the Lunar New Year in the midst of a pandemic is an event I never anticipated might deliver the next.
I must confess that I’ve never been to China but working at 1-StopAsia gives me a feeling that I’ve already spent ages there. The thing is we never stop learning and this Lunar New Year has shown me another different side of the Chinese culture.

Long-lasting traditions and modern technology

We’ve all heard about the red envelopes and the tradition that goes with them. In the past, the tradition was for gifts to be given, and at some point during the more modern times, it shifted into being a monetary gift. What I didn’t actually consider was that our large Chinese team has this wonderful tradition transmitted at work. I knew that it is common to be practiced at work by someone of authority giving away envelopes to employees in the company. Somehow the two facts that we have a Chinese team and they celebrate too, never clicked together with the red envelopes.

Where is WeChat in all this?

Did you know that WeChat has a specific feature to actually give away Red envelopes?

I didn’t! I learned that from our CEO Don Shin the other day. You can set up a number of envelopes you want to give away and then people have the option to grab one.

Let me describe how it all happens below:

All of our Chinese colleagues are gathered in a chatroom on WeChat. That usually happens on the day/eve prior to Lunar New Year. Then the management team joins the chat, too. The highest in authority is the first one to choose how many red envelopes to give away and sets up a limited number of them. The money that each envelope holds can vary from 5 cents to 50 USD.

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And then it becomes one busy, noisy affair while you can see how the number of envelopes is dwindling one by one in a matter of a minute or two as everyone grabs for them.
In a matter of seconds after they finish comes the complaining of the people who didn’t get one… and then it starts all over again.
Then the next one in line in authority sets up a number of envelopes to give.

It is messy, funny, noisy, and uninhibited and it is exactly how it should be. And it all happens online in WeChat – pandemic and all too many other factors to consider.

Strange and beautiful at the same time

For me, being in a country where we are much more subtle about the money we receive, it seemed a bit odd at first. But after giving it a thought overnight I must say: I love it! And I do hope you love it, too.

Happy Year of the Ox!


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